As a Veteran, you are entitled to compensation for any service-connected disability – including sciatica.
Let’s go over sciatica, what it is, and how you can get compensated. We will also tell you how to make a claim once you receive a medical diagnosis.
Sciatica describes pain in your leg, buttocks and lower back caused by compression of the sciatic nerve in your lower back. Other symptoms of sciatica are numbness in one of the legs, posture issues, and one-sided symptoms where one of the legs feels heavier than the other. Rarely does sciatica affect both legs.
Not all pain in the lower back is considered sciatica. For it to be sciatica, it has to be pinching or pressuring of the sciatic nerve.
An underlying medical condition usually causes sciatica. Because of this, it is not in itself a medical diagnosis.
With the sciatic nerve being the largest nerve in the body, issues with sciatica do not occur immediately. Rather, they develop over time, getting worse as time goes on if it is not dealt with.
You will have to see your primary care doctor in order to get a full medical examination to diagnose your sciatica. They will most likely ask you a series of questions to go through the history of your symptoms, giving the locations of where it occurs and also an overview of what helps to relieve it. A physical exam testing the reflexes in your nerves, knees, and even your spinal motion will be done to see the severity of your sciatica.
Once you find out if you have it, there are few ways to treat it. If it is minor and is early on its development, you will not have to go through surgery. One of the simplest ways is by home remedies. These can include hot and cold packs, stretching, or over-the-counter medications to relieve the pain and compression causing the nerve to be pinched. Some will use prescribed medication, such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, or narcotics.
You can also go to physical therapy. Your therapist can design a rehabilitation program that adjusts posture and strengthens the muscles so that you do not have any future injuries. If the symptoms are serious, you can also get steroid injections to help the inflammation around the nerve. However, you will not want too many of these since they can cause serious side effects.
If your sciatica gets worse, then you might have to undergo surgery. This is when sciatica causes severe weakness or even loss of bladder control. Surgeons will remove a small piece of the disk that is causing the nerve to pinch to give it relief.
The severity of the symptoms determines the VA rating. This will be based on impairment, medical records, and any requirement for physical therapy. Three categories are used to determine the VA rating, and we will go over them from the least severe to the most.
The least severe out of the three, moderate neuralgia would be symptoms of numbness, tingling, and moderate to severe pain, along with impairment of any ability in the affected leg. This would receive a 20% rating. If the neuralgia is more mild with little pain or interference, then the rating is only 10%.
If the symptoms are more severe with a loss of sensation, reflexes, function, or even muscle atrophy, this can entitle a Veteran up to 60%. This is not always the case, and depends sometimes on the quality of the disability application. When cases of sciatic neuritis are more moderate than severe, you can expect anywhere from a 40% to 10% VA rating.
This is the most severe out of any of the categories. There can be severe, moderate, and mild symptoms under paralysis, and depending on how severe the symptoms are, it may require more serious remedies. If all the muscles in the leg and below the knee fail to work along with great difficulty in bending the knee, it could result in an 80% disability rating. Some less severe forms of paralysis could result in a 10% rating, given the seriousness of the symptoms.
Each of these will determine the rating you get, which affects your monthly compensation for your sciatica. Because it is not a diagnosis in itself, it can be a bit more challenging to get the proper rating for sciatica than other service-related injuries that are diagnosed in themselves (such as a herniated disk). This is why it will be important for you to go to a VA medical examiner to give a proper connection from underlying medical disability.
When you file a claim for your sciatica, you will have to make a service connection. Since sciatica is usually connected to other underlying back issues, then you can retrace anything that may have happened in your time of serving, such as a fall that would have caused any of these symptoms. You should also support your claim by adding any medical documents that evidence any back pain shortly after your service time. You can also ask your physician to write up an opinion to back up your claim.
But what if you do not have a specific injury that caused the disability? Your time in the service can still cause symptoms that may not necessarily be injury-related. Though it can make your service connection a little more difficult to be compelling, it does not mean that it is impossible. Back problems can be traced back to jumps, rucks, or high-impact training. This can be used as a service connection to trace your symptoms of sciatica as a service-related disability.
If you get a rejected claim back, you will want to craft a response that addresses the main reason as to why your claim was rejected. This is usually done by providing evidence that was not previously on the claim. If you are having difficulty figuring out what evidence is still needed to have your claim accepted by the VA, our experienced lawyers at Berry Law can help you find out what you still need.
Once you have filed your claim and it is accepted, you will receive your monthly compensation for your disability. This is determined by the rating for your specific condition and the severity of it. However, the VA rating for your disability is never a fixed percentage that is unable to change. Sometimes, the severity of your condition can get worse, which means that you are entitled to higher compensation. If you feel as though you were given a rating too low and you deserve a higher compensation each month, then you are able to appeal the decision. This can be a lengthy process. Many times the VA makes mistakes when they are determining your rating, which ends up in the wrong rating and lower benefits.
Determining the VA rating for sciatica can be a lengthy process. Because it has to have an underlying medical condition and a proper service connection to be considered, getting the VA benefits that you deserve can take some time.
However, what is important to note is that you can get benefits and compensation for your sciatica. At Berry Law, we will help you to get the compensation you deserve. By determining the severity of the symptoms, connecting it to your service, and getting a proper medical examination to back up your claim, you can get the compensation you deserve.
For any more questions on VA rating and compensation, be sure to visit our website for more information.
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